In loving memory of Sampson (8/29/05 - 5/24/17)
I love paddling with my dogs! Our system works great. Theodore takes the bow and fishes off the front. Sampson lies down just below my feet. I shift my own stance back about a foot from the center.
The three of us paddle together at least once a week and then I'm out with Sampson or Theodore by themselves another once or twice a week. We often paddle 5-8 miles when we go out.
We all want the best conditions -- flat water, wind-free skies and no power boats! But then I have yet to be able to control the weather and I honestly believe in sharing our amazing outdoor world, even with the water skiers! So we train, Sampson, Theodore and me, for conditions outside of our control.
It is most important to me for my dogs to be safe. This means I want my dogs to sit calmly on the board. I want them to be able to confidently swim or get back onto the board from the water in the event they fall off. If my dogs fall off and swim to shore, I want them to run along the shore in the same direction I'm paddling to the first available safe spot for me to pull over and pick them up. I want my dogs to "load up" and "get off" safely and when I'm ready to help them if needed. Most importantly, I want my dogs to know that whatever happens I'm there to ensure their safety.
It is easy to make the assumption that a dog will instinctively know what to do, but that's just not so. The first time Theodore went paddling, he was on my friend's board and Sampson and I were on my board. Theodore literally walked over to my board only to discover that he could not walk on water. As soon as he hit the water he panicked. His back end sank and his front legs flailed. Even though Theodore was wearing his life vest he still managed to swallow quite a bit of water and gagged several times once he was finally on my board.
The first time Sampson fell off my board he had no idea how to get back onto the board and swam to shore. From there he ran -- on the road -- towards where my car was parked. Even though I was on shore and had Sampson under control within less than a minute, it was still super scary.
Here are my tips for dog and paddleboard safety.
Sitting in Small World Coffee across the street from Princeton University, I'm hoping some of these folks' smart genes will wear off on me. Sipping a decaf latte and eating a cardamon and ginger scone I can't help but play "What If...".
Let me describe the "What If..." game, created in the swamps of Florida in 2003/2004. I was working as an environmental biologist. I worked on a team writing, reviewing, and monitoring Land Management Plans for environmental law compliance. Our clients included Kennedy Space Center, the Orlando International Airport, FL Dept. of Transportation. We would squirt toothpaste around our ankles and wrists and then duct tape our long sleeved clothing and pants to our gloves and boots. Donned in mosquito netting and DEET sprayed liberally on our clothing we walked into the swamps cutting our way through the wetlands with a machete in order to count the variety of grasses within a randomly selected sample site. We also would identify and count birds, reptiles and various other species we came across. Often we were thigh-deep in water with the musk of water moccasins filling the air and alligator eyes watching our every move. Then the "What If's..." would start.
I went something like this ... What if I attended the University of Montana instead of San Jose State University, where would I be? Then I would continue this made-up story to describe my life had I made that decision. It might go something like this: My undergaduate work would have been in big animals. I would have obtained my pilots license and led a study of Brown Bears, flying to remote locations in the Alaskan Wilderness.
It was a simple game, but it kept our minds free as we waded through water and cut through vegetation. Mostly, it kept our minds on something else other than the amazing amount of insects attacking our bodies.
I can't help but sit here today across from Princeton and play "What If...". If you ask my dad he would tell you I am a prominant attorney that graduated from an Ivy League University. What if I had done just that? What if I attended Princeton University? Where would I be today? Likely I would not be living in Truckee, California. Maybe I never would have been diagnosed with cancer. Or, if I was diagnosed with cancer, maybe I would have started a not-for-profit legal aid organization for those with cancer to help fight the injustices of the medical insurance system and the workplace horror stories I've heard over the years.
The trouble with the "What If..." game is that we do not live our lives in reverse. We only have this moment and we can only move forward from this moment.
So, this morning I will feed the parknig meter and take a walk through the Princeton University campus. I will snap a few photos. I will visit an dear friend. And as the day comes to an end, I will get back on the plane to fly home.
Today I will cherish this moment and for a minute "attend" Princeton, before I move boldly forward into my life.
Many years ago I met a woman, Julie, in front of Whole Foods in Denver, Colorado. She had amazing curly dark hair that bounced about in unison with her spunky energy. She spoke so fast I barely caught a word. I was mesmerized and terrified at the same time. I had just finished chemotherapy and radiation. I remember clearly thinking I wish I had her hair. I was obsessed with hair and boobs back then. Those were the fantasy months where I believed I could literally pick out any set of boobs I wanted. Reality would set in about two years later.
Julie had vision. And at that time it was Spa 4 the Pink. In a fundraising event, I modeled lingerie. Later, Spa 4 the Pink would host Spa Days at hospitals. These were amazing events where we literally transformed cancer center conference rooms into mini-spas. Services included facials, meditation, yoga, make-up, massage and wig washing and styling. I met amazing women at these events - strong and beautiful.
I remember one woman in particular who had overcome ovarian cancer just before the fashion show and a year later at Spa 4 the Pink's first Spa Day, her ovarian cancer returned. She attended the Spa Day as a volunteer. This beautiful woman did my hair for the fashion show and then styled wigs at the first Spa Day. I remember giving her a big hug and when I reach back into my memory I can still feel her infectious energy.
Fast forward nearly five years. Spa 4 the Pink made a huge difference to a lot of people, but there needed to be more. So with a simple mission, Wellness for Cancer was born. Julie's mission: no one will be turned away from receiving spa services because of a cancer diagnosis. My phone rang and I was happy to help. Somehow with Julie at the helm it would work.
With huge efforts, a great team and partnership with SpaFinder, Julie brought to fruition a Cancer-Aware Spa Training program. The program is offered in many formats, including webinars and online training as well as hands-on training. There is a strong business section showing spas how to incorporate oncology services into their menus and marketing. The goal remains simple - don't turn away those who happen to have cancer.
Two international spas have been accredited the Cancer Aware qualification: LIfehouse Spa in the UK and the Kurotel in Brazil.
I'm currently in England teaching a Train-the-Trainer program so that hands-on training can become commonplace in the UK. When I return to the states, I will be doing a hands-on training at Radiance Spa in Pennsylvania followed by our first promotional event raising awareness of oncology spa training to be held at Radiance Spa.
I would never have imagined all those years ago in front of Whole Foods I would be sitting on double bed in Leighton Buzzard, England reviewing power point presentations, creating decision trees, modifying protocols and, most importantly, teaching someone else how to take the reins to teach the next set of trainees in the UK.
I have often said we don't have leaders like Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln anymore. But I was wrong. If you look hard enough or pay attention long enough, those people are out there and making a difference.
I used to go to church camp. Now it is almost impossible to remember any of the events of camp. I cannot tell you if we stayed in dorms or tents. If there was a pool, a lake or a river. I cannot remember if it was hot or cool. I most certainly cannot remember a thing we learned.
What I do remember is Patty and cookie dough.
Patty was my height (at 10) wtih bleached blonde hair in a short spunky cut mimicing Robert Smith of the Cure. She always wore bright red lipstick and occassionally smeared the corner. She loved the Cure. I didin't even know who the Cure was. She wore black jeans with holes in them and a white t-shirt. The kind of white t-shirt my dad wore under his work shirts.
Patty was cool and I wanted to be just like her.
As cool and grown up as Patty was she loved cookie dough. To me that made her just that much cooler. Maybe that is why she let me tag along, I'll never know. But during our free time Patty and I would walk to the camp store and each buy a roll of Nestle Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. We'd cut open one end and begin eating, rolling back the wrapper as we ate.
I don't know what we spoke of during our cookie dough walks. I can only make up converstations:
"So what is the Cure?"
"Only the coolest band ever."
What kind of music?"
"Robert Smith is so hot!"
"Do you know him?"
"Not yet, but we're gonna get married."
I recently puchased some cookie dough, still packaged in rounds of mustard yellow, warning: DO NOT CONSUME RAW COOKIE DOUGH. I cut back the wrapper and took a bite. Suddenly I'm 10 again walking away from the camp store in awe of my friend Patty.
My thoughts haunt me in my sleep as my unconscious slowly makes sense of my conscious. In a defining moment yesterday I made a decision to stand up for myself. To surround myself with people I want to be and leave behind those people I do not want to be. Yesterday I made a decision to close the door on a path I’ve spent so many years trying to attain. I selected a new branch on my life’s tree.
In a single moment I questioned where I’ve been and where I want to go. How my values play into my life. I questioned whether I was living those values. Was I surrounding myself with the people I want to be? Or was my judgment clouded by where I thought I wanted to go? Or by social norms?
I believe that to bring new things into my life, I must let go of old things. In my daily yoga practice, my teachers present: let go of those things that are no longer serving you. I believe we are clouded by where we think we are going or ought to go.
Perhaps my unconscious was merely thanking my conscious for finally listening.
I recently met with a man who asked me what I am passionate about. What would I do if I could do anything? If money, time, commitments were not part of my decision? If I could live my life my way, what would that look like? I cannot answer those questions in entirety. Maybe because I don’t really know or maybe because the truth would scare the crap out of me. Yesterday, somewhere inside of me, I answered, in part, where I want my life to go. Now it is up to me to pay attention to where that is.
This year my commitment, my resolution, was to take better care of me. It is easy to tackle the obvious, decrease sugar intake, eat more vegetables, exercise, commit to a daily yoga/meditation practice, weekly acupuncture, and monthly massage. The less obvious side of taking care of ourselves is the mind and the spirit. Paying special attention to what makes our heart sing. Am I dying a bit every day because I’m letting myself stay in a position (whether at work or in life) that I truly do not want to be in? When I leave the house am I cheerful? Do I want to go where I’m headed? Or do I dread my destination?
I believe we cannot commit to wellbeing without first consulting our spirit. I can draw a picture of what I want my life to look like. I can envision the details, what the library will look like inside the house, the fresh-cut Shasta daisies in a vase on the old barn wood table, the sun filtering in through the windows dancing across the floor as it moves through the sky with my dog chasing its light. What has always been a challenge is the detail of the spirit.
Who do I want to be inside? Who do I want to have as my friends? What values are really important to me above all else? What serves me? What moves me? Why am I holding onto things that do not fit? It is hard to tell if something does not fit if I do not know what fits at all. It is the philosophy that ultimately shapes our being.
I can look into the world and say that stealing is bad, murder is awful and rape may be the worst. But what about the lies I tell to myself every day? Those little lies to get me through the day. The lies that “just this once” it will be OK to stick with this or that, to hang around this person, or make that decision. The lies I tell myself so that I can live within my skin. The lies that oppose my values, yet conform to society’s view of where I’m supposed to be.
And when we stand up for ourselves, what happens? Ridicule. Judgment. So then we jump right back on the merry-go-round, and round, and round.
Sometimes when it’s really early, quiet, the birds still asleep, I find myself looking at my surroundings and wondering how in the hell did I get here? Not that all of here is bad or good, it just is. Did I choose here? Would I choose here again if I had it to do over? Or should I just be happy I’m here? Live in the moment, follow the cliché? Ignore my spirit with reckless abandon?
I say no! A defining NO.
Joyful Life Acupuncture offers weekly Community Acupuncture which is where I learned that I am chronically dehydrated. Not because I don't drink enough water, but because I only drink water!
So I left with a handful of information on healthy living and electrolyte replacement. It takes 10 days to replenish electrolytes and stave off dehydration.
Common signs of dehydration include:
Recently the following question was asked: who inspires you?
Of course Jennifer Aniston for her always perfect hair. Jim Carey for making me feel a little less like a nut. Mary Decker for getting up off the track and running. Mary Lou Retton for nailing that perfect 10 on the vault. And, most recently, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson for climbing the Dawn Wall, a photo of which I took using 110 film before I was 10 and has been framed in my living room almost as long.
But my true inspiration comes from the ordinary. My childhood friend, Reem, for everything. We've known each other since we were 10. I don't carry a memory from childhood without her in it in some way. She's classy, smart, sweet. Jennifer. She just works with it, whatever "it" might be. (This is actually true of both Jennifer's I know). Jennifer is the only one I know that wakes up earlier than me, who possibly has more energy than me. She is who I want to be when I grow up. Shirley, true Montana. Beautiful and full of life. She is her own person. Preserving the past, embracing the future. Kamala for simplicity. She enjoys the everyday moments most of us take for granted.
I often spend so much time looking for answers away from where I am that I lose sight of what's right in front of me. It took me a month to answer this question. It wasn't until I was running around the track in Truckee that I found what I was looking for; inspiration in what was around me. Not only in the things, but the people. People that have been in my life for more years than I've fingers and toes. Each of my friends I keep because they inspire me.
December 30th I received a call from one of my closest friends:
January 3rd. Is this my body? I cannot move. I want to get out of bed, but my legs are screaming "NO". My ankles are not rotating. I cannot reach my toes to count if they're still there. Five months. I pour out of bed. Reach for my toes once more. Almost. Coffee will fix this. I harness Theo, my puppy, who seems completely unaffected by yesterday's run. Secretly I'm jealous. I put the spikes on my running shoes-I will be on snow and ice today. I decide to walk to start. When I get to the snow I begin to run. I have to stop to allow the dog to do his business, ahh, rest. Run. Stop again for Theo to mark a tree, ahh, more rest. Run. Stop a third time just to stop, but I will blame it on the dog since no one is watching to question. Ahh, rest. Waddle for another 2 miles. Home. Juice. Once again, I can no longer touch my toes. Five months?